israel railways 311POLICE AND RESCUE workers survey the scen.
(photo credit: Nir Elias/Reuters)
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz threatened on Sunday to shut down Israel
Railways within four months if its management does not show how it will solve
safety problems that have led to a number of recent rail accidents and
“I have notified the management of Israel Railways that
unless it presents me with a detailed plan to solve its safety problems within
four months, I will close the railways down,” Katz said at a press conference on
“I won’t compromise on passenger safety, and allow a situation in
which people are afraid to take the train.
The railway is not supposed to
be a battlefield, but a safe and convenient means of transport.”
Thursday, Katz discussed Israel Railways’ safety problems with its acting
chairman, Ori Yogev. Katz ordered Israel Railways to establish proper
As an interim measure, he ordered the installation of safety
measures on trains, including cameras in the drivers’ cabins.
is expected to announce the reform of Israel Railways, ordered the
transportation ministry’s director general to draw an alternative mass transit
plan if he orders the shutting down of the railways. “This won’t be a plan of a
bus here and a bus there, but a comprehensive plan to implement if necessary,”
The minister did not hesitate to make personal attacks against
Israel Railways’ employees and managers.
“The locomotive cabin is not a
nightclub. It’s one of the most sensitive and important workplaces there
Train drivers should know that they are being supervised.
driver is suspected of running a red light and causing a collision, he should be
investigated and indicted through proper channels, like everyone
Adding that current procedures are “unreasonable,” Katz compared
the railways to security organizations. “If the IDF had a unit with this level
of maintenance and service, it would be closed.
We don’t want to reach
the step of closure, because I believe that Israel Railways’ management and
employees are doing important work, and will do what is necessary to fix the
In the latest railway accident on April 7, two doubledecker
trains collided south of Netanya station, injuring around 60 people and causing
the Tel Aviv-Haifa line to shut down for a full day. On March 14, a train was
evacuated near Nahariya after smoke entered one of the cars, while on January 24
a train was evacuated near Beer Yaakov, after smoke entered the last car,
forcing the closure of several lines.
Criticism of Israel Railways has
been rising lately, including several investigative reports in the media about
alleged problems in the conduct of its management and the non-implementation of
supervisory procedures recommended in the aftermath of previous safety problems.
The company has also suffered from frequent replacements of its CEO, problems in
executive appoints, and budget problems.
The Israel Railways workers
committee called a labor dispute in response to the attacks by Katz. The dispute
was called within two hours of Katz’s press conference through a telephone vote
of members. The workers committee was already in dispute with management over
the decision to outsource maintenance work and is therefore entitled to call a
strike in less than 14 days.